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Philippians 3:6– with zeal, a persecutor of the ecclesia

28-02-2023 - Posted by Hans

…in relation to zeal, persecuting the ecclesia, in relation to the righteousness which is in law, becoming blameless.

The list of seven qualifications in which Paul could boast in the flesh begins with five qualities related to his lineage and what he was (circumcised, Israelite, Benjamite, Hebrew, Pharisee). The last two qualities describe what he did , his achievements.

At first glance it seems that Paul is here boasting that he was a persecutor of the ecclesia. But that is a misunderstanding and also impossible, since Paul considers this ‘feat of arms’ since his calling as the blot on his past (1Cor.15:9; 1Tim.1:15). What Paul is boasting about here is what he achieved in terms of zeal. Paul was an extremist: he could not tolerate ’the sect of the Nazarenes’ and did everything possible to persecute the ecclesia (Acts 24:5; 26:9). In this he took the lead and visited the believers even in foreign cities (Acts 26:9-11). In terms of zeal, there was no one in Judaism who was as active in this as Saul of Tarsus.

Meanwhile, is it not significant that Saul, precisely because he took religion to its extreme consequences, made him the “first of sinners,” the bitterest enemy of Christ?